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Will Michael Douglas' cancer be a factor at the Oscars?

October 19, 2010 |  6:46 pm

Michael Douglass newsThe Oscars may be bestowed by an academy, but that group is really a family of film veterans who, like most clans, usually rally together in times of crisis.

Concerns run high in Hollywood right now over Michael Douglas' bout with Stage 4  cancer. On the one hand, his reps profess optimism and Douglas himself says, "I'll beat this," but we also saw Catherine Zeta-Jones recently cut short her work commitments overseas to rush back to the United States to be at his side.

In the current Oscar derby, Douglas competes with two roles: as a failed businessman facing personal and financial woes in "Solitary Man" and as a disgraced former corporate raider in "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps." Douglas earned his first chunk of academy gold for that same Gordon Gekko role in the first "Wall Street" (1987), of course. Previously, he won an Oscar as producer of best picture "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975).

I'm surprised by Pete Hammond's report at Deadline today that Douglas may opt for the supporting race for "Wall Street 2" so as not to compete against his lead role in "Solitary Man." Was there ever any doubt? Most Oscarologists have assumed that would be the case for months.

Academy darling Douglas is socko in both roles, so he'd be Oscar bait this derby season even if he wasn't sick, but still we must wonder: Will his illness play a factor?

Throughout Oscar history, many contenders got a boost from voters' desire to rally behind nominees in times of trouble — not always health issues. Nicole Kidman had only a supporting role in "The Hours," but she won lead actress in part because Hollywood wanted to give her a hug after she had been dumped by the town's box office king, Tom Cruise.

In 1956, Ingrid Bergman won best actress for "Anastasia" in large part because Hollywood sought to forgive her for the scandal surrounding her liaison with Italian director Roberto Rossellini. When she bore his love child in 1950, there were 38,000 newspaper articles on the scandal, the Federal Council of Churches blamed her for "the moral decay of the West" and she was denounced in the U.S. Congress as "a powerful influence for evil."

But health woes have also played a starring role in past derbies. In 1960, Elizabeth Taylor won best tracheotomy — uh, actress — for "Butterfield 8" after rebounding from a near-fatal bout with pneumonia (which led to the throat operation) and her scandalous love affair with Eddie Fisher.

There are many more examples of "sympathy Oscars." Read our forums discussion here.

Photos: Douglas in "Solitary Man" (Anchor Bay), Douglas with Shia LaBeouf in "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" (20th Century Fox)

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